New Delhi: The much-talked about issue of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail was debated in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The debate was carried out under rule 184, which allows voting. The Congress put up a brave front saying it's confident that it has the numbers and can pull through this.
Sushma Swaraj, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, asked the government to roll back its decision of FDI in retail and said if the ''govt does not take the decision back, then I appeal to my colleagues here, vote with us and defeat FDI.''
She also added that government's decision to allow FDI in retail is a gross violation of promise made to Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition said consumer will lose if there is FDI in retail as the market will shrink to a few players. She said FDI will demolish country's manufacturing sector.
She said the decision to allow FDI in retail was not a step towards development but a leap into a ditch of "destruction." Referring to statements made by the government that FDI in retail would empower consumers, she said large superstores will wipe out small retailers by first dropping prices and then charging higher prices once there is no competition.
Swaraj also said claims that farmers will benefit from the move was "baseless" as the experience of the European Union shows that farmers are forced to sell their produce below production cost to large retail chains.
"A fool learns from his own experience, while a wise man learns from the experience of others," she said. She claimed that the most likely scenario would be that retail chains would not buy products from small and medium farmers at all and supported her contention by giving the example of Pepsi in Punjab which rejected locally produced potatoes and tomatoes as being below standards.
She said even McDonalds was importing potatoes from abroad and not buying the produce locally. "You are from the state which produces apples...a local whole-seller would take out a damaged apple and sell the consignment. But the bigger chains will reject the entire consignment. When people will come to your doorsteps with their grievances, you won't be able to help them," Swaraj told Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.
The BJP leader said even US President Barack Obama is supporting the 'small business Saturday' campaign by going to small shops to support their business.
Swaraj said that China will be the ultimate beneficiary of this. She added that around 12 crore people will lose jobs due to FDI. Swaraj said large supermarkets are abusing their buying power. She argued that the farmer will not benefit from the FDI in retail.
Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy said they were disappointed that other parties did not support their No Confidence move.
Telecom Minister Sibal defended the government in the Lok Sabha. Sibal said FDI in retail will be implemented in 18 cities at the most. Sibal also accused Opposition of exaggerating FDI evils.
"My question is if the chief ministers and the people of a state want to implement FDI in their state, then how can you (Opposition) stop them from implementation," Sibal said, adding that "if any state doesn't want to implement, then don't implement FDI. All these talks of Opposition are exaggerated".
"Debate on retail FDI was not necessary at all, Sibal said adding that initially, retail FDI will be implemented in 18 cities and it will be foolish to say by implementing in 18 cities the small retailers will be in trouble.
Sibal attempted to counter Saugata Roy and Sushma Swaraj point by point. Given that both the parties alleged that China will benefit from the Wal-mart setting up shop in India, Sibal goes on to read out a Forbes report which reports how the Wal-mart has failed to take off in China.
“When Wal-mart itself has not been able sink its roots into China, how will the country benefit of they started doing business here?” asked Sibal.
Sibal then reminds the NDA that in 2004, their government, in a bid to prop up their India Shining campaign had mooted the idea of FDI.
Interestingly, Swaraj had brought the same up but refused to elaborate why they had considered FDI and then discarded the idea. The Congress, in true Opposition behaviour, was against the move then. Swaraj had asked a while back: “Why Mr Prime Minister have you changed your mind now?” Though she herself ought to answer the same question!
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav addressed the Lok Sabha, saying foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail is not in favour of the country. He claimed that the retail FDI would not create jobs in the country.
Mulayam advised the government to drop the decision on FDI in retail, and call an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.
Basudeb Acharia, a CPI (M) MP from West Bengal's Bankura constituency, opposed the FDI by saying that the government is clued out about the state of the country’s economy.
“If the Wal-mart gives one person a job, it will deprive 17 people of employment. How will the government account for that. Doesn’t the government see the tears of the families whose breadwinners have committed suicide. There have been more than 2,50,000 farmer suicides, what has the government done to address the woes of the families?” he asked.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also opposed the government's move, but remained ambivalent on its stand on voting on Wednesday.
The DMK said they will not vote against the government. DMK MP TKS Elangovan said that though they strongly oppose FDI, they will not vote against the government because ‘they are brothers and have done a lot of good work together’.
He added, “Since the problem is in just the hand, we will not make you go through a full body scan.”
In case you didn’t get it, he probably meant that just because DMK has a problem with one of the government’s several decisions, they are against the idea of holding the government and their relationship ransom for it.
The debate will continue on Wednesday followed by voting.
Earlier, ruckus was witnessed in Lok Sabha when BJP leader Yashwant Sinha demanded that FEMA amendments be debated separately.